Down on the farm…. .

So what has been happening down on the dairy farm in the last ten days?  In a word…….lots.  It is certainly hard work here and you don’t get to sit down for too long.  We’ve been on the go seven days a week with various different jobs to do.  Two barns have been sorted, cleared, swept and the rubbish taken to the tip.  What is it about farms that they accumulate so much stuff?

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Clearing out the barns.

Some of the cows have been on the move in the mobile pen to different pastures.

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The mobile cow pen.

If you don’t own a lawnmower then a cow is probably the next best thing as half a dozen of them will clear a two acre field of lush long grass in just a few days leaving it looking like a barren wasteland.  They do, however, leave their mark so to speak.

Tim got to play with some more boys toys (well not really, he was in charge of a shovel) on a busy scorching hot day whilst a mixture of grass, corn and wheat was harvested which will be used for feeding the cows.  Four large tractors and trailers were used for the job with other farmers pooling their resources to help get the job done.  Once cut, the grain was pumped into a giant airtight pvc sausage where it will ferment for at least six weeks before being fed to the cows.

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The big guns were brought in to harvest the cereal which will be fermented for six weeks and then fed to the cows.
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Taking a break from shovelling.
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Once cut, the grain is pumped into a big plastic sausage.  

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Ilsa (Mum Bayer), had a birthday party to prepare for last Saturday.  Thirty people were expected for a barbecue on the Saturday evening so it was all hands to the pumps in the kitchen in preparation.  Picking, gathering, washing, peeling, chopping, boiling, steaming, weighing, mixing, blending, whipping, baking, stirring, marinating, tasting…….the list was endless.  Ilsa co-ordinated everything in the kitchen with aplomb but it took seven hours of furious work to get all the food prepared.

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All hands on deck in the kitchen.

It was a shame for Ilsa that it was actually her own birthday that she was preparing everything for.  If I was her I’d be insisting that next year I be taken out instead!

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Tim ready to tuck in.

Gerd (son Bayer) and other helpers had made the area at the back of the barn look amazing with table cloths and home grown flowers on every table and fairy lights draped around the perimeter of the garden.

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That’s what I call a barbecue.
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Michael (from Russia), ( Markus from Latvia), Nick (from Australia), Billy (from Hong Kong) and Tim enjoy the fire pit.

The following day the village had their annual street festival with traditional German food, beer, cakes, theatre, archery and music.

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Russelhausen village festival.

It’s the first street party I’ve been to since the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977 when I was nine!

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Obviously a stein of beer is obligatory as we are in Germany.
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The best way to transport the beer in these parts.

Tim was asked to play in the little church before one of the villagers gave a talk on the history of Rüsselhausen church.

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Tim played everyone in to the little church in Russelhausen.

A documentary about the farm and the Bayer family is currently being made and a cameraman and interviewer were at the house for the weekend filming what was going on.

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Filming for a documentary about the Bayer family.

I got to do some strimming before I was dispatched off with Ilsa to the supermarket.  It wasn’t until we came out of the supermarket that I realised my legs below the knees were completely green from the strimming with a tide mark where my socks had been.  Doh!  Fortunately I’m not well known here.

 

 

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Another first for Tim was changing the oil on the tractor.  It’s not often he gets his hands dirty these days and normally avoids it at all costs but, well, the tractor is more interesting than the bikes I suppose!

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Happy as a pig in ……!

The swallows have been bringing up their young in the cow barn and it looks like they are now almost ready to fledge.

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There are dozens of swallows nests in the cow barn.  The young look almost ready to fledge.
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Hungry baby swallows 🙂

All in all, then, a busy time and we have aching muscles where we didn’t even know we had muscles but we’ll feel all the better for it………….won’t we?

Schönen tag!

 

 

Helpx number 6…. .

So, once again behind with the blog.  I had intended putting out a blog post just before we started our 6th Helpx but alas it never happened.  The German learning kind of took over as I wanted to get through the whole of the Michel Thomas Foundation German before starting on our current Helpx and my brain can only cope with one thing at a time these days.

Time was getting on though as we had been lingering along the Moselle for over a week.  It was time to carry on up to Koblenz and swing a right onto the Rhine.  The sixty five kilometre stretch between Koblenz and Rüdesheim, known as the middle Rhine, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on an island in the middle of the Rhine built for the sole purpose of generating revenue from boats travelling along the river.  

Although much busier than the Moselle, with a railway line on both sides of the river, it does boast more castles sitting on hillsides overlooking the Rhine.  We based ourselves for a few days at a Stellplatz in Bacharach, a very pretty small medieval town.

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Bacharach.

I think the best way to ‘do’ the Rhine is by boat though as the cycleway is adjacent to the busy road and railway line and it’s not as relaxing as cycling alongside the Moselle.

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Bacharach.
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Campers enjoying the sunset whilst sampling the produce of Wiengut Gehring at Nierstein which also happens to have a lovely stellplatz in the grounds. 

After kicking back for a week on the Rhine cramming our heads with German we arrived at our latest Helpx.  We are staying at a dairy farm near Markelsheim in the Baden-Württemberg region learning all about cows and crops.

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A different kind of commuter vehicle.

The Bayer family has farmed here I think for five generations and are in the process of changing over to organic status.  They should have their organic status by next year and they are the only organic farm in this area.  The farm is in a little village four kilometres away from Markelsheim set in a valley with rolling countryside all around. Every child in the village seems to have their own toy sit-on tractor so very much a farming community.

We’ve been here for over a week now working alongside Mum and Dad Bayer, their two grown up sons, an aussie helper, an American helper, two French helpers and Siegfried the family mascot who isn’t related to the Bayers but who came to live and work at the farm in his early twenties over fifty years ago.  There are also two Polish guys doing some building work and alterations to the cow enclosures.

We’ve had a full on first week with a huge variety of jobs to do.  We’ve helped out with all things cow related like feeding, mucking out, milking, moving cows to different pastures, fencing and the feeding of the calves.

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Feeding time.
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Ten days old.
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Ilsa (Mum Bayer) feeding the calves.

Tim also helped with the birth of a calf which I completely missed as I’d nipped back in to the kitchen to do the washing up.  It was a bit of a drama with the calf having to be pulled into the world with a piece of rope tied around its back legs.  All very James Herriot!

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‘It’s a girl’ – a few minutes old 🙂

Tim has done lots of boy stuff like riding around in the tractor, cleaning one of the barns and cleaning the bathrooms!

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Boys toys.

I’ve been helping Mum Bayer in the kitchen making jams and cooking for everyone on the wood fired range which is no mean feat with the numbers to cater for.  It’s a military operation in that kitchen.

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Cooking homemade Wurst on the wood fired range.

I am in awe of the amount of work that everyone does here.  Aside from the cows the family have 120 acres of crops, some of which need weeding as, being organic, no pesticides can be used.  We’ve been out in the fields pulling up thistles trying to clear them before they flower which has been back breaking work.  If they have flowered they need to be hoiked out and then carried out of the field otherwise there will be even more next year.

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No end in sight.

It is something that needs to be done though whilst converting to organic status and should reduce year on year with the crops rotating but it will always be a continual headache for organic farmers.  The bed in the room we are in is very low to the floor and I have had to roll out of it in the mornings onto my hands and knees!

I will never. Ever. Ever. Ever. E.v.e.rrrrrr. again complain about clearing the small patch of weeds at the front of our house back in Wiltshire.  NOT EVER!  In comparison, I would now see that job as a bit of light entertainment.  Even though it has been hard work it has also been very satisfying being out in the countryside in the sunshine on a completely still evening listening to the skylarks singing above us and seeing the end results of a clean field.

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It seems even cows have bad hair days!

So that’s it folks, our first week down on the farm.  More next week if we survive!

Bis bald!

Some of my best friends are donkeys…. .

Ok, so long time no blog post!  It’s fair to say I’ve left myself somewhat lacking on the blog front over the past few weeks and have left my multitude (aka – handful) of readers in the lurch so to speak.  Desculpe meus amigos!!

So, where are we?  We are currently parked up on the cliffs above Monte Clerigo beach, just outside Aljezur, Portugal watching the surf roll in whilst the rain comes and goes in waves.   Our time at Donkey HQ came to an end yesterday after eight donkey filled weeks and we were sad to leave but also ready to continue with our travels.

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Donkey HQ.

When we first embarked on our fifth Helpx assignment we didn’t think for a minute that we would stay for as long as we have but we had such an enjoyable time there that the weeks just went on by without us noticing too much.

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A terrace of pines.

We so enjoyed looking after all the donkeys and getting to know all their different characters.  Romano, the wise old grandaddy.

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Romano taking a nap.

Margarida, Miss Greedy.

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Margrida, eyes bigger than her belly!

Gentle Mocca.

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Gentle Mocca bringing up the rear.

None too bright Olivia – unfortunately I don’t seem to have aphoto of her:(

Xiquito, Olivia’s shadow.

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Xiquito gearing up for a roll in the sand!

Cheeky Emilio with the most beautiful ears.

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Beautiful boy, Emilio.

Elfrieda, Martha and Isadora, the guest donkeys, or ‘Algarve 3’ as I’ve been calling them.  Still sticking together and working as a team even after nearly two months at donkey HQ.

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Elfrieda, Martha and Isadora (aka the ‘Algarve 3’)

Jeco, the stoic little guy.

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Jeco seems to have Margarida’s bowl!

Xico, aka gnasher!

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Xico with the big teeth!

Steady Emil and friendly, inquisitive Falco.

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Emil (L) and Falco (R) enjoying breakfast in the sun.

And last but not least, and my all round personal favourite, Margalhaes now renamed Kali as no-one could remember or pronounce his name!

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Kali’s first trek to the beach and he’s working the crowd like a pro!

Sofia is passionate about her donkey family giving them a life that most donkeys in Portugal and around the world could only dream of.

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Our last walk with Emilio and Kali 🙂

They are so well cared for and it was a privilege to be able to be a part of their lives and routines for the time we were there.

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Romano checking out the new area of pasture.

Madan, our Nepalese housemate, has taught us much about Nepal and Nepalese cooking and we’ve enjoyed getting to know him.  We now have Nepal on our list to visit in the future!

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We have shared many meals.

We also mustn’t forget the hospitality Sofia’s parents, Raban and Nelly, have shown us sharing stories of their colourful lives with us.  Their zest for life at 81 years old is inspirational.

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Sofia, Raban and Nelly on New Years Eve.

The small community we have experienced here has been one of neighbours helping and looking out for each other sharing ideas, skills, machinery, equipment and time.

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Lovely, gentle Florin.

It has been a fantastic learning experience for us and we are leaving with very happy memories and would definitely like to return in the future.

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Walking the local area.

So, Kali says goodbye and wishes us safe travels on he next chapter of our journey wherever it will take us 🙂

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Tchau!!

Até a próxima!

A fortnight in pictures…. .

They say ‘a picture can paint a thousand words’ so in a departure from my usual narrative, and as I’m so behind with the blog, the pictures will have to do all the talking!

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The alternative French circus group ‘Cheptel Aleikoum, Circa Tsuica’.

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Xico checks out the new ‘salt lick’ Tim made for the donkeys.
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Mmm, now everyone takes an interest!
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New Years Eve – whenever there is an opportunity for a photo, Romano seems to be there to ‘photo bomb’ it!
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Madan – chief fire starter.
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Madan’s first experience of sparklers 🙂
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Romano welcomes Magalhaes, the new kid,who arrived on New Years Day.
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Magalhaes must feel a bit under the spotlight as the other donkeys come to stare him out.
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Margarida leads the way on an afternoon trek.
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I’m sooo glad donkeys don’t drool like dogs!
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Another trip to the local produce market.
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It’s not often I’ve answered my front door to a donkey!
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Romano led Magalhaes astray on a road trip to the neighbours and we had to go and retrieve them!
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A trek to the beach at Praia da Amoreira – Xico kindly carries our lunch.
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Magalhaes’ first sight of the sea.
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Lunch stop.
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Magalhaes’ first ever roll in the sand 🙂
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He is still alive!
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Following the river round to the sea.
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(!)
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Hopefully, this will be the first of many treks for Magalhaes.
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Team donkey.
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Xico enjoying a snack on our way back from the beach.
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Aww, Magalhaes is super friendly and he’s now my new favourite!
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Cutting bamboo to be used to replace the ceiling in one of the houses.
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Bamboo ready to be cleaned and dried.
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Loading the bamboo to get it back to the house.
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A music night.

Até mais!

It’s all about the donkeys…. .

Mmm, where to start?  We’ve had a whirlwind of a week which has, once again, shot past.  For the past eight days we have, along with Madan, our fellow Helpxer, been holding the fort here at Donkey HQ, up a lane, near Aljezur, Portugal.

When we originally talked about housesitting being a part of our travels I never expected our charges to be thirteen donkeys.  Dogs, cats, maybe a few chickens or the odd rabbit yes, but donkeys, well, no.  But that is what we have been doing for the last eight days as Sofia, Raban and Nelly flew off to sunny Paris last Thursday to spend Christmas with other members of their family.

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Donkey poo picking is a never ending task!

We were a little bit daunted when the idea was mooted, a couple of weeks ago, that we could look after the house, donkeys, dog and cats whilst the family were away with lots of questions going through our minds.  What if they get out?  What if one has an accident? What if we get the feeding wrong?  What if they throw an all night party?  Or invite friends over through Facebook and everything is trashed?  What if, what if, what if……?!

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Sunrise – nearly every day has been like this 🙂

It has, however, been almost completely stress free and a pleasure to look after them all.  We’ve only had a couple of incidents.  Olivia was missing in action on Tuesday at the morning roll call.  Tim and I split up to go and look for her and I heard her before I saw her as she was calling to the others.   She’d managed to get her leg caught between the barbed wire on the fence in the bottom field.  I don’t think she can have been trapped for too long as there wasn’t a mark on her.  She just let me lift her leg up and out onto the right side of the fence and then went skipping off to regroup with the others.

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The view back to the house from the hill opposite.

Then yesterday morning we had an escapee.  Well, it wasn’t exactly the great escape as she’d only gone a few steps from the field to the big pile of straw in the barn and was busy gorging herself!  She was, nonetheless, free range and could have gone on a joyride in the car should she have so desired!  It was one of the new ones, either Martha or Elfrieda, I still don’t know which is which.  We’re still not sure how she got out but think she got through the bungey fence by the barn which is electrified.  We’ve already had to put another bungey up at the far end of the field as she managed to limbo under the higher one!  I think the three new donkeys are working as a team and plotting something.  Them donkeys is organised!  They seem to be one step ahead of us (not difficult).

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They’re up to something, these three!

So, all in all, the donkey care has gone extremely well and they all seem to be content.  They’ve all been groomed up and look lovely until they then go and have a roll in the sandpit!  Only Chico, or I should spell it Xico (he put me right on the spelling!),  hasn’t been groomed as he has a mouth full of big teeth and he’s not afraid to use them!  He caught me the other day on my thigh (through the trousers) leaving a cut and big bruise so we are a bit wary of him.  Tim always keeps the wheel barrow between Xico and himself as a mode of self defence!

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Another of Tim’s ‘art’ photos!

It’s like living on a safari park with all their chat though.  Tim managed to record some of their conversations which will hopefully upload here.

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Retrieving Romano from the garden to take him up to the top field.

Aside from the donkeys, Madan has been the dog and cat daddy for the week and sorted them out with feeding and the like whilst Tim and I have enjoyed having them as company in the evenings.

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Florin and Lotta make themselves at home!

Christmas has obviously come and gone but we did make an effort on Christmas day to create as near to a traditional christmas lunch as we could for Madan, but sans the sprouts, as we couldn’t get any, and a chicken instead of turkey.  I was pretty chuffed with my giant Yorkshire Pudding which came out a treat.

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Giant Yorkshire Pudding.

The gas oven here is a bit temperamental so it was touch and go on the YP front!

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Xmas lunch.

We’ve had time to cycle to the nearest beach which is about eight kilometres away and nearly all downhill on the way back.

P1000941.JPGMadan has cooked some epic food which I’m trying, and failing, to emulate.  He manages to create such intense flavours from just a few ingredients.

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Madan is a fab cook:)

I’m picking up quite a few tips from him and will be joining him for a ‘Madan Masterclass’ sometime soon to learn the secret of how he does it.

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Evening entertainment!

We are now looking forward this next week to a few days off to explore the area a bit more once Sofia returns.

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Another sunrise!

Feliz Ano Novo to everyone!

 

Helpx number 5 continues…. .

So our donkey extravaganza continues 🙂  We have been at Burros and Artes for two weeks now and the time has just whizzed by.

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Chico giving Tim a nibble!

The weather has been warm and sunny every day which makes the work a pleasure and never a chore.  Tim and I have been doing various jobs alongside the donkey care.  We needed to prepare a small area for three new donkeys which were arriving so that they could be separated from the main pack for a few days before gradually integrating them.

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Repairing the electric fence ready for the new arrivals.

The electric fence needed to be repaired and the ground strimmed free of vegetation before their arrival.

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Strimming the ‘quarantine’ area for the new ones.

They are on a two month trial here to see if the land here suits their feet/hooves better.  There was much excitement when they arrived last week.

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Martha, Elfrieda and Isadora arrive.

It was the first time they had been transported so they were a bit stressed when they arrived but soon settled down.

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Showing them to their new home.

They are oh so pretty but a bit shy.  They are beginning to get a bit bolder now though.

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Making themselves at home.

We had quite a noisy two days after they arrived with much donkey braying and general boisterous behaviour from them all.  The original plan was to keep the three new arrivals separated from the resident pack for a few days but Falco managed to get through the electric fence to say hello and took quite a shine to the two new ladies!  Best laid plans and all that!  They are all in together now and seem to be getting on.

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Looking settled after a couple of days.

Sophia’s plan for the donkeys is to split them up into two groups during the day in different pasture areas.  The large field behind the house is to be one area but we needed to repair the electric fence and strim the vegetation around it.

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I wasn’t to be outdone and did my share of the strimming!

It was quite a big job but we made good progress over a few days and the field is now ready.

Sophia showed us how to tether three donkeys together to walk them up to the field which was easier said than done!  As long as they keep moving it’s fine but if one decides to stop for a snack on the way then everything disintegrates into chaos!

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Taking the oldies up to the pasture behind the house.

Sophia, with her mother, has managed to walk eleven donkeys at the same time in this way but I think three were enough for us especially if Margarida is lead donkey as she does like her food!

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Romano leading the way.

Romano is the eldest donkey at around thirty years old.  Up until a couple of days ago he was allowed special privileges and roamed free range around the garden.

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Romano likes to join us for lunch!

Unfortunately, he has been eating the roses and damaging some trees so he is now back in with the other ones and he’s none too happy about it!  He tries to escape back into the garden at every opportunity!  He’s a wise old boy!

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Romano pops in to say hello to Sophia!

We’ve also been doing some grooming which goes down well with most of the donkeys.  It’s a bit of a treat for them as they do enjoy it.

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Romano enjoys a daily groom up!

Aside from the donkeys we have been to the local Christmas market in Aljezur.  It was mainly frequented by Dutch, German, French and English families who live in this area making and selling their own crafts and produce.

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Aljezur Christmas market.

Music was laid on too.

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We’ve also been learning about Nepalese cuisine and culture from Maden, our fellow Helpxer who is from Nepal.  He showed us how to make Momo, a type of South Asian dumpling.

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Maden makes Momos!

I think it’s fairly obvious which one I made without Tim pointing his sticky mitt at it!

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Hmm, I need a bit more practice on the presentation.

So, all in all we’ve had a busy two weeks and we love it here.  The countryside is beautiful and we are planning on doing some hiking on our days off over the next few weeks as I think we’d like to stay here at least six weeks.

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The view from the top of the hill.

Finally, we have at last had the boiler repaired. Yay!  We drove back to Camperserv at the end of last week so we now have heat and hot water again.  Not that we need it at the moment as our Helpx accommodation is great with the added bonus of a wood burner which we are making full use of!

Feliz Netal!

Helpx number 5…. .

Having spent just over a week in Lagos it was finally time to move on.

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Street art in Lagos – having had enough of lounging in Lagos sitting out the poor weather we needed to get back on the road.

The  weather  improved on Monday 5th December 2016 so we moved 30km up the south west coast to stop in Aljezur for a couple of nights before starting our fifth Helpx assignment. More on our current Helpx later on in this post.

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Aljezur.

We were first introduced to Aljezur by our friends Chris and Di who have come here over the Christmas period on several occasions in their van.  In 2013 we gate crashed their holiday by flying out to Portugal to meet them and we were really looking forward to coming back here in the van this time.  It has been a really refreshing change leaving the hustle and bustle of the Algarve as this area is less touristy and much quieter.  The area around Aljezur is mainly cork oak, eucalyptus and pine.  There are also plenty of orange and lemon groves.

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Harvested cork.

The weather since being here has been fabulous with warm sunny days so we took the opportunity to break out the bikes for a cycle up to the small town of Monchique.  The market town sits below the mountain peak of Foia which is the highest peak in the Algarve at 902 metres above sea level.

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Cycling from Aljezur to Monchique.

We knew it was going to be mostly uphill all the way but I had miscalculated how far it was going to be.  I thought it was about 20 kilometres but it is actually 20 miles to Monchique from Aljezur.

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Orange groves.

It took us over two hours but the views of the surrounding countryside were worth it!

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Beautiful views on the way up to Monchique.

By the time we got there we only really had enough time for a coffee and a quick sandwich before heading back down again.

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We bought 3kg of oranges on the way back at 0.50c a kilo!  We gave half of them away to a dutch chap in the van next to us in Aljezur as there were too many for us.

So after a couple of nights in Aljezur we were welcomed at our current Helpx assignment.  This one is turning out to be our dream Helpx!  We are staying with a German family – Raban and Nelly (both 81!) and their daughter, Sophia.  They have just over 50 hectares of land and Sophia runs a donkey trekking business 🙂  We are in donkey heaven here!

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Romano helping us unpack the van to settle in to our accomodation.

Sophia currently has thirteen donkeys, ten of which are here and three that are on their holidays with another farm.  She also has another three arriving tomorrow.

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‘Ollie’ parked up next to the donkey fields.

They are sooo well looked after and we’ve spent the last five days, amongst other things, learning all aspects of donkey care!  It’s just lush!

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Olivia, Emilio and Chiquito.

Donkey feeding, donkey pooh picking, donkey grooming, donkey medication giving, donkey walking, donkey rounding up, donkey tug o war, donkey coffee morning, donkey, donkey, donkey!

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Another Monday morning at the office!

We know all their names now and we are getting to know their different characters.

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Margarida, always first in the queue at feeding time!
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Mooching about the pasture.

How anyone cannot just love a donkey I do not know!

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Romano, the oldest at 30 years gets special privileges and joins us on the sun terrace for coffee in the morning!

Suffice to say we have been doing other things as well as donkey stuff but I’ll write about them in the next post.  This one is all about the donkeys!

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Emil and Chico.

Did I mention the donkeys?!

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Playtime!

Boa Noite!